Desert Island Jazz
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  • John Santos (2003)

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    What do Louis Armstrong, Bo Diddley, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley and Bill Cosby have in common? They've all used Latin American musical elements in their work, thereby playing important roles in the ever-growing Latinization of U.S. pop culture. The parallel relationship and syncretization of Jazz and Latin American music provide a rich and fascinating perspective on this Latinization process.

    Latin Jazz is at the forefront of an international barrier-breaking process which is a tribute to its powerful spiritual roots. Unfortunately, and largely due to its humble "ethnic origins," this vital form of expression has been relatively ignored in terms of historical recognition and documentation, despite its surprising role in American pop culture and its obvious recent successes.

    As with any art form that has been packaged, marketed and over-commercialized (sold back to the people who created it, in many cases), we are served a constant barrage of formula and uninspired work that does not reflect or recognize the profound history and relevance of the form.

    Of all the diverse forms of Latin American music, Latin Jazz is the most direct and influential link to the music of the United States. Its history runs parallel to that of North American Jazz, having been created in the Caribbean community of which New Orleans (the birthplace of Jazz) is such a vital part, in New York City, the creative music capital of the world, and other American urban centers. The origins of Latin Jazz are largely Cuban, drawing upon African and European roots. Considering New Orleans' Caribbean roots and the millions of transplanted Afro-Caribbeans in New York, is it far-fetched to consider Jazz itself to be of Caribbean ancestry? Although the music has evolved beyond any boundaries of nationality, color, sex, etc, it is vital to acknowledge and understand the Afro-Latin nature of this form of expression, as it represents the very identity and history of Afro-Latinos.

    Contrary to popular belief in the United States, Jazz did not develop solely in this country and Latin Jazz is not a novel recent appendage related to the current popularity of "World Music." The indisputable truth is that Jazz and Latin American music are branches of the same tree that have borrowed freely from one another since the late 19th century.

    Today's interpreters of Latin Jazz are of all ages and colors. We are honored to consider ourselves part of a musical movement that owes its existence to generations of pioneers and innovators who dedicated their lives to the preservation and development of creative forms of cultural expression. We strive to uphold their legacy.

    Music is education, honesty, freedom, physical and spiritual release, an extra-sensory form of artistic human expression which speaks to issues of the heart and mind. Music is a gift that deserves the utmost respect from practitioners and listeners alike. From this position of respect, it is not difficult to see how Latin Jazz has withstood the test of time to reach its current state of international growth and acceptance. It is our task to see that the appropriate dignity and historical accuracy is afforded to its roots and pioneers as we welcome its evolution.
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Camerata Romeu La Isla de la Musica Camerata en Guaguaranco (Magic Music)
    # 2 Yoruba Andabo El Callejón de los Rumberos Protesta Carabal (Pimienta Records)
    # 3 Florencio featuring Arsenio Rodrigues N/A Pobre Mi Cuba N/A
    # 4 Elis Regina, featuring Hermeto Pascoal Elis por Ella Corcovado (WEA)
    # 5 Cachao featuring Julito Guerrero La Leyenda, Vol. 1 Julito y Su Flauta (Kubaney)
    # 6 Elena Burke A Solas Contigo ¿Por Que Sequir Fingiendo? (Discmedi)
    # 7 David Sanchez Obsession Lamento Borincano (Columbia)
    # 8 Amado Borcelá with Chucho Valdés, Paquito D'Rivera, Emilo del Monte and Carlos Emilio Morales Guapacha en la Habana Melodia en Abril Released in Japan
    Book Howard Zinn, "A People's History of the United States, 1492-Present"
    Luxury Item A well-stocked toolbox
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